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The Chicago heat is no joke this year. Here are some tried and true ways to stay cool in the city this summer.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times

How to beat Chicago’s heat in the water, from pools to water parks to boat rentals

These are the best ways to stay cool right now without spending too much or going too far.

There really is nothing like summertime, but now the temperatures are here and you may find yourself looking for some respite. One tried-and-true way to stay cool through this heat wave is by diving in the water, from jumping in the lake to learning a new skill such as sailing or paddleboarding. Here are eight ways to soak up the cool without spending too much or going too far.

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The rooftop pool at Cabana Club on the 6th floor of The Robey Hotel.

Brian Rich/Chicago Sun-Times

1. Find a pool to jump into

The Chicago Park District manages 50 outdoor pools across the city, along with 27 indoor pools. The city’s outdoor pools opened Monday and close just before Chicago Public Schools resume in August, according to the park district. Open swim is free, while lap swimming requires a membership ($25 for one month or $42 for three months).

Single day pool passes for purchase:

  • Some Chicago hotels sell day passes to their pools. At the InterContinental, a day pass to enjoy one of the oldest pools in the city is $40 for adults and $25 for kids. The pass also includes access to the hotel’s sauna and fitness center. 505 N. Michigan Ave.
  • The Robey in Wicker Park sells day passes to its Cabana Club, a rooftop bar that has a small pool — better suited for a quick dip than a full pool day. Adult tickets are $15 during the week and $30 on the weekends (kids are $10 any day of the week) and include access to amenities such as Wi-Fi, towel service, a welcome drink and more. 2018 W. North Ave.
  • Some gyms, like Life Time at One Chicago, also offer a day pass for $50, which includes pool access. 15 W. Chicago Ave.

Suburban water parks with non-resident passes

  • Orland Park’s Centennial Park Aquatic Center has water slides and a lazy river. Day passes for non-Orland Park residents are $25 Monday–Thursday and $26 on weekends and holidays. 15600 West Ave, Orland Park.
  • The Heritage Park Family Aquatic Center in Wheeling is a massive outdoor water park featuring large, faux rock structures and waterfalls. There are diving boards, a sand play area and waterslides. Day passes are $15, and kids under 2 get in free. 105 Community Blvd., Wheeling.
  • One of the largest water parks in the area, Mystic Waters Family Aquatic Center in Des Plaines, has multiple water slides, cliff dives and a zero-depth pool to soak in. General admission is $20 for adults, and $17.75 for kids 17 and under and seniors 60 and over. 2025 Miner St., Des Plaines.
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Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain offers a way to stay cool while experiencing public art.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times

2. Play at a splash pad

From June to August, dozens of local parks offer spray features — AKA splash pads — that are perfect for the young (and young at heart) to cool off on a hot day.

Perhaps the most visible splash pad in the city is the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park, which includes two 50-foot towers with a shallow pool in between. Designed by artist Jaume Plensa, the fountain is a boost to both public art and a welcome chance to cool off. 201 E. Randolph St.

The city also has a handful of water playgrounds, many of which are adjacent to outdoor swimming pools.

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Chicago’s beach season runs through Labor Day.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

3. Take a trip to the beach

One of the best — and easiest — ways to cool off in the summertime is to hop in Lake Michigan. With 26 miles of lakefront access to enjoy, there is no shortage of options. The city’s beach season runs through Labor Day.

Some favorites include:

  • Montrose Beach, where there’s a dog-friendly beach and ample bird watching alike. Montrose is also Chicago’s only beach that allows kiteboarding. 4400 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
  • Ohio Street Beach, which offers lockers for swimmers to protect their belongings. Whether just taking a dip or training for the triathlon, bring your own lock. 600 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
  • Margaret T. Burroughs Beach — AKA, 31st Street Beach — boasts some of the best views of the skyline. 3100 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
  • Promontory Point in Hyde Park has lake access and trails for walking or biking. Check out this full WBEZ guide to the park. 5491 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
  • 63rd Street Beach is one of Chicago’s largest beaches and also features one of the city’s biggest and oldest beach houses, which was completed in 1919. The beach also has a nonmotorized boat launch. 6300 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.

4. Rent a boat

Whether on the river or the lake, getting out on a boat is the perfect way to enjoy a summer day. Luckily, there are so many options, from the adventurous to the laid back.

Chicago Electric Boat Company’s diverse fleet of boats ranges from comfortable cruisers such as the Duffy electric boats (rentals from $155), which are prime for sitting back and relaxing with drinks and snacks on the water; to modern classics like the Retro Boats, which are refurbished and retrofitted with eco-friendly electric motors (rentals from $145). Chicago Electric Boat Company has four locations on the river: at Marina City, the Chicago Water Plaza, the Chicago Riverwalk downtown and at the new Rockwell on the River on the North Branch. 300 N. State St. Marina Level – Unit EE. You can even hire a certified captain to drive if your whole crew wants to take advantage of a day on the water without the stress of manning the ship.

Chicagoans are likely familiar with one of the most popular boat experiences on the Chicago River: The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s boat tour (from $54). 112 E. Wacker Drive.

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Multiple companies offer kayaking tours of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.

Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

5. Go paddling

Kayak Chicago, Urban Kayaks and Wateriders offer tours at multiple locations along the river and Lake Michigan.

The city’s boathouses are also a great place to rent a kayak or canoe to paddle the water. You can rent a canoe or kayak from Chicago River Canoe & Kayak at the Clark Park Boathouse (3400 N. Rockwell); a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddle board from the Lincoln Park Boat Club at the Lincoln Park Boathouse (2341 N. Cannon Drive); and kayaks from REI the Ping Tom Memorial Park Boathouse in Chinatown (300 W. 19th St.).

This WBEZ guide to kayaking outside the city includes more than a dozen other recommendations.

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Chicago’s yacht clubs offer sailing lessons to kids and adults.

Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times

6. Take a sail

Chicago’s yacht clubs offer sailing lessons to both adults and kids brand new to the sport. All the courses get new sailors out on the water and cover the basic skills you’ll need to be comfortable setting sail.

  • Chicago Corinthian Yacht Club has four-week adult sailing lessons at different levels. They also offer a “women on the water” course, designed by and for women sailors. Courses are $385 for non-club members. The club also offers a variety of youth sailing programs; prices vary. 601 W. Montrose Ave.
  • Columbia Sailing School’s learn-to-sail introductory course teaches all the sailing basics over two sessions ($220). Youth summer sailing programs are also offered. 111 N. DuSable Lake Shore Drive.
  • The Chicago Yacht Club’s sailing education program is spread out across three sessions and costs $730 for non-club members. Summer sailing school for youngsters is broken up by age group. 400 E. Monroe St.
  • Jackson Park Yacht Club’s learn-to-sail program is led by seasoned sailor Erica Trejo. The three-session courses include both classroom and on-the-water instruction and cost $499 for non-club members. Junior sailing classes are also available. 6400 S. Promontory Drive.

7. Try out rowing

No matter if you’re an experienced rower or brand new to the sport, you can join the city’s vibrant rowing community. The Chicago Rowing Foundation (CRF) hosts camps, clinics and seasonal teams from its location out of the Clark Park Boathouse. Adults can sign up online for a learn-to-row class (from $200); youth can join the summer or fall camp to prepare for teams that run during the school year. 3400 N. Rockwell St.

The Lincoln Park Boat Club, which rows out of the Lincoln Park Boathouse, Clark Park Boathouse and Lathrop Homes Boathouse, also offers youth teams and camps. Its nine-session learn-to-row courses for adults (from $310) are popular for beginner rowers. 2341 N. Cannon Drive.

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You can take stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, lessons on Lake Michigan.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times

8. Stand up for paddleboarding

If you’re up for a different kind of challenge, give stand-up paddleboarding — also called SUP — a go on Lake Michigan.

If you’re new to the sport and want to give it a try with some help, local outfitter Chicago SUP offers private lessons ($100) and group lessons (from $75) from its locations at North Avenue Beach and Diversey Harbor.

Further north at Montrose Beach, Kayak Chicago also rents stand-up paddleboards on the lakefront. Closer to downtown, Urban Kayaks offers rentals at Monroe Harbor.

If you’re a yoga fan, Chicago SUP’s on-paddleboard yoga class (from $75) challenges your balance while stretching your body. You can even take their full moon SUP yoga class on Lake Michigan under the glow of the night sky.

Tip for first-timers: You’ll want to pick a nonwindy day to avoid the waves. We also recommend bringing a dry bag for your wallet and phone, waterproof sandals (such as Chacos) and a carabiner to clip your keys to your belt loop so you don’t drop them in the lake.


Courtney Kueppers is an arts and culture reporter at WBEZ.
Freelancer Erica Zazo contributed reporting.

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